Baseball: St. Edward knocks out rival Westminster Christian
By Erik Jacobsen email@example.com May 17, 2012 9:46PM
St. Edward winning pitcher Jacob Koehring (right) and teammate Tyler Tamaka celebrate their victory against Westminster Christian in the Class 2A Richmond-Burton Regional semifinals Thursday. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 29, 2012 9:36AM
St. Edward capitalized on its one window of opportunity against rival Westminster Christian.
The Green Wave went hitless in six out of the seven innings Thursday, but when a scoring chance arose in the top of the third it answered the call by pushing across all three of its runs in a 3-2 victory in the semifinals of the Class 2A Richmond-Burton Regional.
St. Edward freshman Jake Lafrenz erased his team’s 2-0 deficit when he smacked a two-run double to left with one out in the third to tie the score. Two wild pitches then allowed Lafrenz to move up to third and come home with what turned out to be the winning run as the third-seeded Green Wave (19-16) earned a spot in the championship game against top seed Richmond-Burton (24-7) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“With runners in scoring position you always want to get the guys in,” Lafrenz said. “We capitalized on that chance and it got us where we needed to be.”
St. Edward’s one burst of offensive production gave just enough support to starting pitcher Jacob Koehring, who notched a complete-game victory after bouncing back from a shaky first inning in which he allowed two runs. The junior lefty struck out five, walked one, scattered seven hits and proved especially tough in pressure situations as the second-seeded Warriors stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
John Wawro led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for Westminster Christian and pinch-runner Josh Cleghorn moved up to second on an error by Lafrenz at first base, but Koehring (7-3) worked out of the jam by getting a flyout to right, a pop out back to the mound and a ground out to short to end the game.
“I hit my spots pretty decent and I let the fielders make the plays,” Koehring said. “I know almost everyone on (Westminster Christian’s) team and there are some kids on there that play on my travel team and that I’ve played with my whole life. This was a huge game.”
Westminster Christian (18-12) probably wishes it could have used the benefit of hindsight after its pitching plans backfired.
Senior Dylan Scully started and looked sharp through two scoreless innings as he limited the Green Wave to only one baserunner, but he gave way to sophomore Clay DeHaan in the third. A leadoff walk, a bloop single to center and a balk put runners at second and third to set the table for Lafrenz’s two-run double off DeHaan, after which the Warriors summoned all-state pitcher Ryan Perez to the mound.
“We had a plan to get three innings out of any two guys we could and close it with Ryan,” Westminster Christian coach Jeff Moeller said. “It’s a tournament and you want to win the tournament.
“If (Perez) pitched too much today we weren’t going to have him for Saturday, but I know the other side is if you don’t win today you don’t go Saturday.”
Perez’s entrance to the game was anything but seamless as he unleashed three wild pitches on pitches in the dirt, the second of which came on a swinging strike and allowed Lafrenz to charge home from third.
“We had tied it and I wanted to take a chance to get the go-ahead run,” Lafrenz said. “I saw it trickle behind (Westminster Christian catcher Tyler Greene), trusted myself and got in there with a good slide.”
Added Perez: “My cutter has a sharp, last-minute break. My catcher needs to know that and as a pitcher I should let him know. He tried to get in front of it but it took some weird bounces.”
Perez was otherwise dominant in his 4 2/3 innings of work as 12 of the 14 outs he recorded came via strikeout. The senior walked two and allowed only one hit.
Perez finishes the season with 142 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings. During his stellar four-year varsity career the ambidextrous standout compiled 419 strikeouts, which is the 16th highest total in state history, according to IHSA.org.
“All you can do is look forward,” said Perez, who recently signed with Judson University. “You can’t put your head down about this. This is just a small part of baseball and I’ve got a whole bunch of baseball ahead of me.”
Junior Will Woodhouse and freshman Luke Weston both went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Warriors. DeHaan (5-6) took the loss as a young Westminster team ended a trying season by the program’s high standards.
The adversity started for the Warriors well before the season when Perez underwent Tommy John surgery in November on his right elbow, limiting him to only his left pitching hand. Fellow all-state pitcher Kevin Elder then transferred in December.
“Tell me who has four freshmen on the lineup card and what team went through the adversity before the first ball was even rolled on the gym floor like we did,” Moeller said. “We lost two nationally-ranked arms. It was hard, but I’m proud of the seniors. They did a great job.”